A Strategic Approach to Voice-over Industry Networking
Mar 03 2016
Some years ago, Edge Studio conducted an informal survey of our newsletter readers, asking their most effective strategy for securing new clients. “Referrals” came in first. Second was “Networking.” Actually, these amount to one and the same.
How well do you network among voice-over industry professionals? Successful networking requires as much effort as anything else in your career-development activities. By networking more purposefully, you’ll increase your odds of success. Here’s how:
Personal networking might be the oldest communications media of all. In Neolithic societies, one social group would seek out another social group, if only to find suitable spouses for their daughters.
Networking has become quite a lot more sophisticated since then (and a person might argue that today it’s the sons who often need special promotional effort), but a person who metaphorically makes arrowheads still often benefits from meeting someone who has an oversupply of feathers and shafts.
So it is in the voice-over industry. No person can meet every casting need, so by connecting with other voice-over talent, you may eventually find yourself being referred for a job that another voice actor isn’t right for, or doesn’t have time to do. And vice versa.
But, all too often, people just show up at a schmoozefest, chat a little, exchange cards, and fail to keep in touch. No real connection. It amounts to a little bit of effort, producing even less results.
So here’s the plan …
Approach Networking with Purpose.
Prepare beforehand. Think about your needs, and the needs of people you’ll meet, making a list of what you seek and offer. Make an actual list, and turn it into an “elevator speech” (a brief summary that would be short enough to deliver in the course of an elevator ride). How can you, through professional friendship, help others generate work and prosper? What is it about you that will enable you to do that? And how can others help you do the same?
Focus on them.
Note that we’ve led with you helping others, not first them helping you. There are several reasons. One, it’s just a more effective means of conversation. As you probably realize, people like people who are interested in them, rather than someone who talks about himself or herself all the time. For some individuals, this empathy comes naturally. For others, it requires continual self-reminders, at least until they get the hang of it.
Another reason for focusing on the other person is that you’ll learn more by listening. Even if the meeting doesn’t turn into a professional relationship, you might gain some valuable insight.
Furthermore, by focusing on them, you assure that you are the one in control. Other people may not share your ability to network purposefully. By directing the conversation to topics they are prepared to discuss, you keep the conversation going.
Understand your potential partners’ needs.
If you’re meeting with other voice talent, familiarize yourself a bit with genres they’re likely to represent. Understand trends in today’s VO marketplaces, and problems people may have encountered or (hopefully!) solved. If you’ll be hobnobbing with potential clients (e.g., producers) or related professionals (e.g. engineers), see if you can predict who will be there, or at least familiarize yourself with their points of view … at least well enough that you can understand them and ask an intelligent question.
At the least, understand the various job titles within our industry. Know how a Talent Agent differs from a Manager, and how a Casting Agent typically works. (Tip: it’s a busy, busy schedule.) Understand how an ad agency works, versus a production company, and how they are related. You won’t learn all this in a cram session the day before – it would be silly to try – but acquiring this professional perspective over time eventually pays off. Part of being a voice-over professional is understanding the full range of the profession you’re in.
Expand your perspective.
Focus on your “prime prospects” (just don’t think of them so crudely!), but also be aware that almost anyone might harbor an eventual opportunity. An ad agency assistant account executive may have little influence over casting, but could advance in influence, or drop your name where it applies. That may be true even of someone who works in shipping, or packaging. Even if they will never be able to help you land a VO job, you might benefit from their insights into branding or getting your demo out of the mailroom.
Hit the optimal balance of effort.
Don’t waste your time, or anyone else’s. Find the balance between not making enough contacts, and making too many. At any gathering, you’d like to take advantage of all the opportunities available to you, but it’s unlikely that every voice-over industry professional there will be one. And it doesn’t say much for your interest in any particular individual if you’re glad-handing your card to everyone — not actually talking to anyone. Make the effort to relate to those you meet, yet remember what we’ve said about opportunities lying in all sorts of contacts.
Become a “regular.”
Norm! Repeated attendance at events demonstrates that you’re a committed professional. Actual visibility makes you more than just another name in their address book. Attend the next voice-over industry event – a get-together, mixer, seminar, product demo, conference or whatever. It not only provides your contacts with a familiar face among the crowd, it says you’re an industry regular. Also, when you’ve become a familiar face at these meetings, others are more likely to come over to you.
Be clear about your interests.
Don’t be obtuse. While being helpful is has powerful effect, hopefully the other party wants to be helpful, too. Don’t keep your needs and interests a secret. If you want their advice, ask. If you would like an introduction, let them know. As long as you’re intention is clearly to cultivate a win-win relationship, such a request isn’t crude.
Persevere but don’t push it.
Keep in touch, with helpful, constructive intent. At least send a follow-up email to assure they have your address. If a person hasn’t expressed interest in meeting at a later date, pestering later for a lunch date could be counterproductive. But if they’ve given you their card, that usually indicates that it’s appropriate to email, or even phone, for some substantial reason (coffee, question, suggestion, etc.). Nourish the relationship.
On the other hand, if when you first meet someone they rebuff or virtually ignore you, don’t be discouraged. (If everyone rebuffs you, probably you’ve missed several of the other points made here.) If they’re not interested in talking further, they’re not interested. Don’t pester. Desperation is always a turn-off. Switch them to your inactive list and move on.
This is simple, but obvious: Designate a certain pocket for business cards you receive, and write a memo to yourself on each one, to remind yourself of the conversation. It’s so frustrating to get home and find that you’ve overlooked or lost some cards, and don’t remember who’s who or what they said.
Also, bring an abundant supply of business cards, and have a separate pocket or a cardholder for them. This will help prevent giving somebody a business card you’ve just received, thinking it was yours!
Few things are so personally disappointing as to be asked, “What’s new?” and the your (unstated) answer is, “Nothing.” Be honest. Frauds are quickly discovered and dropped. But if you have no new client or achievement to crow about, come prepared with some other bit of notable news. Even if it’s just something interesting or instructive you learned.
And that brings us to the bottom line, which, when it comes to professional networking, is:
Networking works in both directions. Be personally interested in those you meet, as you present yourself with a consistent professional face.
Remember, nobody can hire you if they don’t know who you are. Learn how to self-market intelligently and effectively show up on a potential client’s radar.
Need some marketing help? Check out the several peer-contact features in the Free Career Center section of EdgeStudio.com, and our Marketing 101 webinar or Business Bundle.
And whether or not we’ve just seen you at VO Atlanta 2016, we look forward to seeing you again!